Former Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden (No. 2) was the best cornerback in the draft, according to NFL Films' Greg Cosell. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Beauty often is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to evaluating an NFL team’s draft.
NFL talent evaluators, scouts and longtime media analysts usually have a wide range of opinions. After Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s second draft in Oakland in April, he was praised by some and critiqued by others. USA Today gave McKenzie a solid B, while the The Sports Network gave him a C+, saying the selections of offensive tackle Menelik Watson and quarterback Tyler Wilson were “classic (Al) Davis-like boom-or-bust types” and that the former Raiders owner is still “haunting the organization.”
Recently, however, NFL Films’ talent evaluator Greg Cosell provided some in-depth analysis of the Raiders’ top five picks to Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar, and his observations were for the most part positive.
Cosell is known for the hours and hours he spends watching film and breaking down plays and players, just as a coaching staff would.
Cosell’s comments with Farrar were transcribed and posted this week on the Raiders’ fan website Thoughts From the Dark Side. Among the highlights from Cosell on McKenzie’s top draftees:
Cornerback D.J. Hayden: “I thought he had the smoothest backpedal in this draft, outstanding balance and body control. I would describe him as explosively sudden with his movements. He had a complete skillset (at the University of Houston). … By the time I had watched D.J. Hayden, I thought he was the best corner prospect in this draft.”
Watson: “There’s a ton of upside to his game, given his lack of experience, but his overall physical attributes – this kid is really athletic. He’s got great balance, great body control. I think down the road people could see him, easily, as a left tackle with more experience.” The knock on Watson has been his lack of experience and raw techniques, but Cosell sees upside, not downside. Says Cosell: “I would bet that good offensive line coaches would tell you, ‘I can correct that stuff in a half hour.’ ”
Outside linebacker Sio Moore: ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has said he loves Moore and believes the former Connecticut standout will be a terrific NFL player. Cosell is more reserved about him. “He’s an athletic mover, but is he a starting linebacker? I guess I’m uncertain about that. He showed some quickness as a pass rusher ... I guess I’m wondering, ‘Is he a jack-of-all-trades that’s a sub-package player in the NFL? Or is he a starting linebacker?’ I’m not sure.”
Wilson: Cosell believes the fourth-rounder from Arkansas will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback at some point. Though he saw Wilson perform extremely well in some games and shakily in others, he loves his toughness, his accuracy and his reading ability and compares him to the Texans’ Matt Schaub. “I don’t think Tyler Wilson is (elite), but he could become a solid starting NFL quarterback.”
Running back Latavius Murray: Cosell is very high on this running back from Central Florida, taken in the sixth round. Said Cosell: “I think he’s a bit of an upright runner, but he’s got burst, he’s got deceptive, measured speed. He’s the kind of guy that, when he gets out into the open field, he’s got a lot of long runs.” Cosell believes Murray would play best in a “power/counter-type scheme, not in a zone scheme” – the exact offense Oakland will run in 2013.
No one, of course, expects these draft picks to make the Raiders AFC West champions in 2013. But it sounds as if Cosell believes McKenzie and his staff made sound choices with the picks they had, a feeling shared by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com after the three-day selection process in April. Rosenthal, like Cosell, believes McKenzie did what he needed to do: He used his best judgment and made choices to build his franchise for the long run.
Wrote Rosenthal: “McKenzie did not draft like a man worried about his job.”